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9 Tips for Professional Email

Text is a rapidly evolving form of communication, which means that emailing in a business setting can be a little bit tricky. Here are some tips for making sure your emails are sending the right message:

1. Use a Professional Email Address
If you're still rocking [email protected] from way back when "Pirates vs. Ninjas" was a thing, it's time to upgrade your email address. Your email address should be your name, or some variation on your name – anything else is sending the wrong message. A quick rule of thumb: If it doesn't make sense on a business card, change it. 

2. Write a Clear Subject Line
Your email's subject line is the best way to convince someone to read your email. Use this space to make it clear why you're worth their time. Email subjects like "Meeting Location Change" or "Update to Spreadsheet" let people know why they need to click through. 

3. Check Spelling
Obviously you should clear any squiggly red lines that appear as you're typing, but don't rely on spell check to catch everything. If you do, your "series" concerns might not be taken quite as seriously as you were hoping they would be. 

4. Keep It Short
No one wants to get an essay in their inbox. Email is best used for sharing short, simple information: If it can't be said in a few short paragraphs, it's probably better suited for the phone. If you're pretty sure it's email-appropriate information, comb through and see if there's any fluff that can be deleted. 

5. Don't Reply All
Or at least if you do, make sure it's really something everyone in the thread needs to see. Your co-workers have a lot going on, and they don't want to get an email where you ask a question only the original sender will be able to answer. Not sure if it's the right time to reply all? Think about how the message would sound if you sent it to someone in the thread you don't know very well. If that doesn't seem like a great idea, just reply to sender. 

6. Direct Attention When Forwarding
Sometimes you have to forward a long email chain to people who weren't part of it. If you need to do this, be sure to direct the new recipients' attention to the relevant information: Otherwise they have to parse through a long back-and-forth to find the one important paragraph. 

7. Watch Your Punctuation
This one is a bit generational, but generally speaking you should limit exclamation points to one per email, and fewer whenever possible. This can be especially difficult for younger workers, who, as The New York Times pointed out, are used to using punctuation marks in text to convey tone. Still, excess punctuation hasn't made its way into the business world yet: Using exclamations won't make your sentence sound friendly – it will make you sound easily excited. 

8. Follow Up Gently
If it's been a week and a half since you emailed your co-worker about that important project, resist the urge to ask if they're still breathing. Even if you're talking to the flakiest flake who ever flaked, assume that he or she had a genuinely good reason to have missed your email "Did you get a chance to look at X?" is a friendlier way to check in that acknowledges your co-worker's busy schedule. 

9. Assume a Friendly Tone
Because text can be very cold, and because business email hasn't embraced the friendly-sentence exclamation point, it's easy to misinterpret an email as rude or even aggressive. The solution is as simple to say as it is hard to achieve: Assume the best. If there's a serious issue, odds are good someone's going to talk to you in person about it. Interpret all text-based communication as positive unless the content itself is negative. 

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